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25 Ways to Attract a Student Talent Pipeline into Manufacturing


By Alyssa Lynch, Superintendent of Metropolitan Education District

Alyssa Lynch, MetroEd Superintendent

Businesses are feeling the painful effects from the lack of well-trained people in the trades. There is a nationwide skills gap to fill 5.7 million job openings. Since the 1960s, vocational education programs prepared generations for jobs in electronics, welding, construction, and manufacturing. Today, California has 1.6 million high school and college students studying in hundreds of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. It is crucial to tap into this student talent pipeline to fill jobs in manufacturing.

As an educator for 25 years, and Superintendent of one of the largest CTE Centers in California, I was excited to celebrate National Manufacturing Day in San Jose on October 6. Here are 25 ways to attract a student pipeline into manufacturing:

  1. Attend an Open House at a School

More schools are adding Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum to their courses. Attend an Open House to discover teachers using robotics, drones, and augmented reality to engage students.

  1. Connect Your Business with Middle and High Schools

Legislators want to see more businesses interacting with schools in order to approve grants and special funding. You can be an advisor to curriculum and help students achieve new insights not found in textbooks.

  1. Work with a Chamber of Commerce for Tax Breaks

Local chambers and leadership groups sponsor bills to give companies tax breaks when they partner with schools. This is a strong monetary incentive that boosts your bottom line and rewards the time you donate as a partner in education.

  1. Advocate a City Proclamation for Manufacturing Day

Have your local city officials declare a proclamation to celebrate Manufacturing Day. Businesses receive publicity as a participant and connect with their community.

  1. Hire a Student and Provide College Support

There are high school and community college students taking classes in welding, construction, HVAC, and electrical maintenance. They receive hundreds of training hours towards certifications. Hire them to assist in your facility and support their college goals. Cover their tuition, housing, or book expenses for them to work in the manufacturing industry upon graduation.

  1. Start a College or Chamber Cohort

Partner with a college, Chamber of Commerce, CTE center, or Work2future to promote a manufacturing business cohort. Include finance, supply chain, human resources, project management, information technology, and facilities. This cohort will create strong bonds across multiple companies to include vendors, customers, and competitors.

  1. Accept Summer Interns with Strive San Jose

The City of San Jose partnered with The silicon valley organization (SVO) to provide high school students paid internships through Strive San Jose. This initiative continues into the summer of 2018. Contact the SVO to get involved. Hundreds of eager students completed the program, gaining work history with local businesses.

  1. Offer Your Own Summer Jobs and Internships

You may have a position or some projects that need an intern or temp. Hire a student for the summer and partner with a school for a low-cost or free solution.

  1. Host a Forum to Bring Project-Based Learning to a School

Take a business case study to a school to make students solve a challenge you faced. Guide the students and you may be surprised to learn of alternative solutions!

  1. Tour Programs at Schools

Schedule a tour to see programs at local middle schools, high schools, CTE centers, and community colleges. Review their tools, equipment, classroom and lab setting. Form your partnership, sponsor a class, upgrade their tools, and provide better quality goods to use in future projects.

  1. Mentor a Student

Take on mentoring a high school or college student. This bond is very powerful to facilitate learning, passing on knowledge from your experience, and grooming excited talent to join your industry. Their extended network can benefit you to solve future challenges.

  1. Partner with a CTE Center or Community College

Students in CTE centers and community colleges have flexibility to take training courses in addition to their general education. There is a variety of interests to tap, from business entrepreneurs to budding scientists and mathematicians. Honor societies get involved with businesses and the community. Students are also seeking opportunities to get recognition on their transcripts.

  1. Start a Manufacturing Campaign at a School or in the Community

Do a marketing campaign to promote manufacturing careers. Host an information table at a school career fair or community event. Showcase the products you output, bring an employee to talk about careers in manufacturing, and collect contact information to pollenate other things you might be doing from this list!

  1. Volunteer at a School

Schools always need volunteers to help with new programs or campus projects. This could include assisting in a classroom, painting a teacher’s lounge, or helping in a community garden. Represent your business and create new contacts with teachers, students, parents, and other community volunteers.

  1. Sponsor a Video Contest

Host a video contest to promote manufacturing. Students in video production classes have access to professional equipment and can be granted access to film your production facility and produce interviews. Set criteria for 30-second videos or short documentaries. Have the community or a small panel of judges vote on the winner.

  1. Create a Scholarship

Reward student achievement and hard work with a monetary gift. Scholarships help fund the rising education costs of tuition, books, and housing. Consider a full scholarship that sends a college graduate into a manufacturing career without debt.

  1. Sponsor a Manufacturing Summer Camp

More middle schools, high schools, and Career Technical Education centers are hosting summer camps to introduce students to exciting careers. This connects your employees to fun learning experiences.

  1. Host a Job Shadow Day

Bring a class or a small number of students to your facility for an opportunity to shadow what your employees do. Rotate between different stations and provide a debrief to hear what employees and shadows learned that day.

  1. Participate in Manufacturing Day and Extend to Multiple Occasions

Be public about celebrating Manufacturing Day. Publish a press release, host an open house, and display a banner at your entrance. Repeat this celebration multiple days a year to keep the manufacturing industry in people’s minds.

  1. Get Involved in SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. Sponsor students for competitions, provide them challenges to solve, or participate as a SkillsUSA judge.

  1. Serve as an Advisory Member

Schools seek business advisory members to review curriculum, recommend equipment purchases, or provide monetary support.

group of femailehigh school students in a factory floor, learning about manufcaturing

San Jose high school students tour area manufacturer

  1. Host a School Field Trip

Showcase your business to an entire class with your company’s history, a tour of your facility, an introduction to your key employees, and connect students with other opportunities you’re adopting from this list.

  1. Provide Projects that Students Can Do in Class

Work with a teacher to provide real world challenges to students. This should require them to perform the solution in class and show them new ways to approach a problem.

  1. Partner with a Middle, High School, or CTE Center

Schools need sponsors for special events or career days. Partner with the administration and create interest in manufacturing.

  1. Send Guest Speakers to Schools

Represent your business and industry by educating students, teachers, families, and other community guests at career days or special events. They provide a trusted platform and pipeline of interest that can generate sustainable results.

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This article was written by Alyssa Lynch, Superintendent at Metropolitan Education District, which operates Silicon Valley Career Technical Education and Silicon Valley Adult Education. She has been a critical voice for Career Technical Education for 25 years, and worked with the Office of Economic Development and Silicon Valley Organization on Manufacturing Day 2017 in San Jose.